Not the world’s best photo, but possibly the world’s best gingerbread fireplace scene! Ha ha, I’m only kidding, but my flatmate and I are pretty proud of our efforts and all our party guests seemed to be impressed. Our initial idea of a gingerbread nativity scene was dismissed when we realised the only animal cutters we had were a giant bunny, a duck and a dinosaur (although we did actually made some gingerbread dinosaurs with the leftover dough!). After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing (I was keen to attempt Edinburgh Castle …) we settled on a Christmas tree and fireplace, complete with boiled sweetie flames. We used a Martha Stewart recipe and followed all the brilliant advice on offer here. Rolling the dough and cutting the shapes directly onto the kitchen foil they will be baked on is a stroke of genius when aiming for straight edges for construction purposes.
1. Sift 6 cups plain flour, 1 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp baking powder into a bowl.
2. Put 227g (1 cup) softened unsalted butter and 1 cup packed soft dark brown sugar into an electric mixer and beat until fluffy. Mix in 4 tsp ground ginger, 4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cloves and 1 1/2 tsp salt.
3. Next mix in 2 large eggs and 1 cup unsulfured molasses (I found this easily in my local health food shop). Add the flour mixture and beat gently until just combined. Divide the dough into 3 pieces, wrap each in clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.
4. When ready to bake, heat your oven to 180 C / 350 f. Roll the dough onto lightly floured kitchen foil and cut out your shapes. Peel the unwanted dough away, slide the kitchen foil sheet onto a baking tray and chill for around 15 minutes (all this chilling is to try to stop the dough spreading, by the way) then bake for 12 – 14 minutes.
We let our gingerbread cool then popped it into a tin overnight to harden up before assembling the next day, using royal icing as glue and butter icing as decoration. To make the fire we melted basic boiled sweets on kitchen foil in the oven, let them cool then broke the resulting shiny sheet of sweetie-ness into shards. Simple but effective!